Image result for Rowland hillOne of the earliest objections to Rowland Hill’s idea for a gummed label that indicated prepayment of postage was the fear that such a label could be soaked off and reused. A postage stamp is one of the simplest examples of a bearer certificate-anyone who possesses it can use it to mail a letter and the fear of reuse was very real. Postage of a British penny in 1840, when wages of a pound a week would support a family of four with ease, was the equivalent of perhaps $5 today so such fear had a real basis in fact. The first stamps were cancelled with Maltese cross cancellations which provided a sometimes disfiguring obliteration and the town from which the letter was posted placed its date and town stamp that was used in the stampless cover period on the same letter next to the stamp. This procedure was followed in the United States when we began to issue stamps except that the type of cancellation that was used was left to the individual postmasters. That is why throughout the Nineteenth century American postal history provides such a rich array of cancellations as many postmasters carved their own fancy cancels out of cork and used them to cancel stamps. Today, cancellations are town and date stamps primarily used to show when and where the letter was mailed for postal delivery purposes. With self adhesive stamps the issue of reuse has become  moot as the stamps are very difficult to remove from an envelope without damaging them.

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